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Feb 17, 3:51 AM EST

Longtime ruler of Turkmenistan sworn in for new term

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Turkmenistan today

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) -- The longtime leader of Turkmenistan has been sworn in for a new term after winning nearly 98 percent of the vote against rivals who had all declared their support for his government.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ruled the gas-rich ex-Soviet Central Asian nation since late 2006, when he assumed power after the death of his eccentric predecessor who had named the months of the year after his family members.

Berdymukhamedov has established an elaborate personality cult of his own, with state media showing his prowess in an array of physical disciplines, including horse riding, racing cars, cycling and lifting weights.

The constitution was amended to extend the presidential term to seven years from five and eliminate the age limit of 70, effectively allowing Berdymukhamedov to be president for life.

Following Friday's grandiose inauguration ceremony, Berdymukhamedov watched a military parade.

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